KohaCon 2012: open source, community and the LMS

KohaCon 12 - It's all about the people
Photo Some rights reserved by nengard on Flickr

Koha is an increasingly popular open source Library Management System (or Integrated Library System if you prefer) and KohaCon 12 was held at the University of Edinburgh from the 05 – 07 June, with an additional 2 day hackfest immediately following. This was a great event, jam-packed with information for both seasoned Koha users and those just testing the open source waters and with  delegates from all over the world.

The event opened with Paul Poulain (release manager for Koha 3.8.) talking us through all the new features available in the latest version. This is a major release and includes such shiny new functionality as a new staff interface, improved acquisitions and  faster processing.

Nason Bimbe from the British Library for Development Studies talked about their experience in moving a specialist library to Koha from a bespoke system.

Next up (after Elevenses, of course) was Chris Cormack, one of the original Koha developers and most active contributors. Chris talked about the various support mechanisms in place within the Koha community to cultivate an active and diverse community with a low barrier to entry for participation. This is a very newbie-friendly community and help is always available for those interested in getting involved.

Fittingly, next up Paul Poulain gave a demonstration of sandboxes. Sandboxes provide a way for users to get involved in the development process by removing some of the cumbersome technical barriers. There’s more information about the sandboxes on the Koha wiki.

Robin Sheat, who has managed quite a few migrations as a developer at Catalyst IT, lead a discussion on best practices for migrating an existing LMS to Koha and some of the gotchas to watch out for.

Nicole Engard talked gave a big-picture overview of the benefits and barriers to open source, drawn from her experience running training sessions on Koha and FOSS. This gave a nice segue into the panel discussion which covered some of the various ways migration is handled and how the Koha community addresses the barriers to both open source adoption and community participation.

Day two of the conference kicked off with Dianna Roberts from Opus International talking about how they use Koha in a multi-national special library context. Joy Nelson then gave another perspective on migrating a library to Koha from a proprietary LMS. Rafael Antonio followed this by talking about Koha in Portugal and how this fits with the a broader shift towards shared library resources.

Paul Poulain spoke about BibLibre’s experiences of using Mirabel, France’s shared database of journals, reviews and serials, with Koha. Afterwards, Joy Nelson gave another perspective on Koha migrations, focusing on specific migration heuristics

Next it was Marijana Glavica and Dobrica Pavlinušić from Croatia who have developed a way to import approximately 6000 scans of book covers (and the associated metadata) into Koha using their own ‘scrape-cataloguing’ technique.

Nicole Engard spoke about training users new to the Koha software. If you are using or interested in using Koha, it’s worth checking out Nicole’s videos on the ByWater Solutions blog: http://bywatersolutions.com/section/tutorial-videos/

Jane Wagner (Liblime/PTFS), presenting remotely, talking about how to troubleshoot Koha user support and Bob Birchall from Calyx in Australia discussed the importance of governance in ensuring the long-term survival of an open source project. This includes ensuring the software is shared under a suitable licence and that the intellectual property is protected in a sustainable way.

The final presentation of the second day was Adrien Saurat (BibLibre) talking about styling the Koha OPAC, using the SciencesPo Grenoble catalogue as an example.

I wasn’t able to say for the final day of the main conference and so missed some great presentations, including MJ Ray (software.coop and one of the organisers of the conference) talking about the future of Koha and demoes of various new developments, such as SRU, Solr, using a Drupal front-end and the off-line circulation module.

You can find out more about the outcomes from the hackfest on the koha wiki at: http://wiki.koha-community.org/wiki/Kohacon12Hackfest or check out the scoreboard to see how many kittens were saved through collaborative bug squashing.

Links for presentations will be added as they become available.


About the Koha decision, open source and trademarks

Some rights reserved by verbeeldingskr8 on Flickr
Some rights reserved by verbeeldingskr8 on Flickr

You may have seen the tweets or emails circulating asking for help for the Horowhenua Library Trust as they fight to keep the right to use the name ‘Koha’ for the library system they developed and have worked on for the past 12 years. Koha is a Te Reo Maori word which you can read more about on Wikipedia. PTFS/Liblime applied for a Trademark on Koha in New Zealand and this application has now been approved by the Maori Advisory Board.

You can read some of the background discussions between PTFS and the Horowhenua Library Trust Koha Subcommittee attempting to avoid this current situation in the HLT Koha Committee report.

The last few years has seen various disputes between Liblime (and now PTFS/Liblime) and the Koha community. There’s a really succinct summary of these on LWN.net but at the heart of this latest development is the fact that the organisation that developed (with Katipo Communications) and shared the Koha library management system under an open licence is at risk of no longer being able to use the name they gave it. And, for an example about how trademarks *could* be managed for open source projects, last year’s announcement about the transfer of the WordPress trademark to the non-profit WordPress Foundation provides a welcome counterexample. Eric Hellman also wrote an article about the GPL open source software licence and software trademarking that sums up some of the main issues back when Liblime was first acquired by PTFS.

HLT are seeking help to challenge this latest decision, which you can read more about on the Library Matters blog.

Koha 3.4.0 – major upgrade for Koha open source library software

A new major release of the Koha open source library management system is now available. Koha 3.4.0 includes some pretty major changes to the underlying architecture with a shift to Template::Toolkit for templating and a range of new features — including some pretty exciting updates for the OPAC. You can read more about this version on the release page and in the latest issue of the Koha newsletter.

Book review – Practical Open Source Software for Libraries

Practical Open Source Software for Libraries book cover
Practical Open Source Software for Libraries by Nicole C. Engard

The profile of open source software (OSS) in the library world, if not the use, has risen exponentially over the last 12 months so it’s great to see a book about open source solutions aimed specifically at libraries. Practical Open Source Software for Libraries by Nicole Engard, is both an extensive (and, yes, practical) introduction to OSS and a whole raft of case studies for those looking to learn more.

The case study interviews with people using open source in libraries around the world covers everything from day-to-day, web access and applications, media, collections, research tools, and automation software. And for those new to open source, there’s both an introduction and an overview of common barriers faced, both real and imagined.

Defining open source is no mean feat (as the recent controversy around Google’s use of the term demonstrates) and ​​​​Engard provides a great,​​​​ condensed version of the philosophy behind it​​​​​​​​. The rest of the book consists of the​​​​ case studies Q&As; ample ammunition​​​​​​​​​ for those looking to make a case for open source in their workplace. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ It also demonstrates the various ways libraries and librarians can get involved, beyond contributing code.

The bigger OSS names are all here; Firefox, Open Office, Dspace, Koha and Evergreen. But the case studies are a great way to find out about some of the lesser known options. For example, there’s Libstats for data gathering and LimeSurvey open source survey software. SubjectsPlus also looks interesting, a tool for creating online subject guides. LibX is also an impressive project that sometimes gets overlooked in these discussions.

There’s a nice balance of libraries who have made a conscious choice to use Open Source Software and those who have used it where viable alongside proprietary systems. It’s a shame the book doesn’t explore the common misconceptions about open source software in more depth. Barriers such as security concerns and a lack of awareness are still there but increasing financial pressures on libraries are going some way to force a rethink.

Practical Open Source Software for Libraries doesn’t go into the depths required to fully explore open source today, but it’s a good introduction and analysis from a librarian perspective and a great guide for those looking to use or develop open source solutions in their libraries and information services. There’s also​​​​​ a​​​​​​​​​ companion website with up-to-date links and facts available at: http://opensource.web2learning.net/

KohaCon 2010 now underway

KohaCon10,  marking the 10th anniversary of the Koha Library Management System, kicked off today in Wellington (give or take a pretty big time difference). There will be 3 days of conference followed by a three-day developer hackfest. They’ve also planned a trip to Levin in the Horowhenua, birthplace of Koha.  All in all, it runs from 25 October to 1 November.

If you weren’t lucky enough to be in New Zealand for the conference, you can keep up with it via the live channel – #KohaCon10. Nicole Engard has already blogged some of the presentations.

Coinciding with this nicely is the release of Koha 3.2.0, the latest major release of the Koha software. You can read all about the latest features and enhancements on the announcement page.

A closer look at OPACs: Koha, Evergreen and Voyager compared

The latest issue of Information Technology and Libraries (available via CILIP Proquest subscription) includes a comparative study of the OPACs of Koha, Evergreen, and Voyager which takes an interesting look at what a next-generation library catalogue might light look like and how it compares with what’s currently on offer.

While I didn’t agree with all of their findings (and I’m not the only one: this response from Dan Scott, an Evergreen developer is also well worth a read), I found it an interesting take on what features are considered central to a ‘next-generation’ OPAC.

It’s also a useful comparison of Koha and Evergreen, the two most popular open-source library systems. While Koha use continues to grow in the UK, Evergreen hasn’t had the same impact.  From both the article and Dan Scott’s response, this doesn’t seem to be due to lack of available features.

The ossviab project is taking a closer look at the suitability of Evergreen for the UK HE market. The decision to use Evergreen for this project was largely based on its use in large consortia environments and I can’t help but feel that Evergreen’s association with large academic consortia (namely Georgia PINES)  is one of the reasons it hasn’t been adopted as widely for non-consortium libraries. It certainly *seems* scalable enough for smaller libraries.

Anyway, time (and the outcomes of the ossviab project ) will tell but I’d be interest to hear if any libraries going the open source route have looked closely at Evergreen and what they’ve found.

Koha Open Day in London

The Kings Fund and CAMLIS are holding another free open day for people interested in finding out more about Koha.

The event will be held in the afternoon of Friday 10th of September at the Kings Fund, from 2pm-5pm. The programme hasn’t been finalised but will include some short presentations with discussion, followed by hands-on experience in small groups.

To book a place, contact Matthew Hale at the King’s Fund.